Rejoice! Our churches are open, and the Sunday Mass dispensation has been lifted. I welcome you back home to celebrate the Eucharist in communion with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This has been a challenging year for us all, but as Christians we know our God is always with us. Our Diocese was founded July 29, 1853, amongst many challenges, but God always provides. He gave Vermont our first bishop, Louis deGoësbriand. At this time in Vermont there were only 10 churches and approximately 20,000 Catholics being served by five priests.

Our Diocese was very much a missionary Diocese with limited resources and a small congregation of Catholics sprinkled throughout the state. The terrain was challenging, and the mostly Protestant state did not welcome Catholicism.

Bishop deGoësbriand spent most of his own $250,000 inheritance to travel throughout the state to spread the Good News and build churches, schools and homes for the most vulnerable. The fruits of his labor paid off. By 1891, the number of Catholics more than doubled to 48,000 with 78 churches. In addition, he helped found eight academies and 16 parochial schools in the Diocese with seven congregations to women religious to staff them.

By the time he died in 1899, he had spent his entire fortune; he had only $2.12 to his name and a few old suits, noted Father Lance Harlow, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, who wrote a biography of the bishop in 2001.

Today we find our Diocese is again missionary territory, similar to what Bishop deGoësbriand faced but with new challenges: Covid-19, declining population and a generation of young people disinterested in joining any type of formal religion.

We must face these challenges with the same fortitude and faith as our first leader and create new ways to engage young people and lay leaders while keeping our faith community connected in new and creative ways and always continuing to support the most vulnerable among us through emergency aid.

All of these ministries are supported by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

On July 29, we will celebrate Founder’s Day of Giving to encourage gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and support the mission or our Diocese. We have received an anonymous matching grant that will match any gift made online up to $20,000. If you have not yet made a gift to the appeal or would like to make an additional gift online, visit vermontcatholic.org/giveonline.

— Ellen Kane is the executive director of development and communication for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the July 24-30, 2021, edition of The Inland See.

 

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